how to scratchbuild a water tower

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Biggerhammer, Apr 12, 2001.

  1. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    Hello all-

    I'm scratchbuilding an open-topped water tower in HO scale. I had originally just wanted to build a plastic kit but it looked thoroughly cheesy so I just used the kit as a template for the wooden one that I am building.

    My quandry is this- how to make the tank? I'm using 1/8x1/16 balsa, stained with Jacobean stain so that it looks like a water tower (instead of looking like a fifty cent glider). I have the structure to hold the tank, I have the platform, but the tank itself is looking tricky.

    Right now, I'm trying this: using an old juice can as a form, I'm building the outside wall of the tank. Once it is completely wrapped around the form, I will wrap it in plasticene, remove the form, glue it down to the platform and fill it halfway with Envirotex. I'm hoping that the plasticene will keep the tank intact for long enough for the 'tex to harden, which will keep then tank glued together forever. I'm worried about the envirotex leaking out and/or getting on the outside of the tank as it dries, though.

    Any suggestions?
  2. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    Hi, BiggerH, Yes there is an easier way, first I would not use Balsa, you can never get it to look right. It has too much grain & always has "fuzz" left on it. I would suggest Bass wood or Styrene, believe it or not, Styrene can be made to look so much like wood that you can't tell the difference. Try using a core that stops a bit short of the top of the tank & leave it in place, put a bulkhead on top of it and cover it with the invirotex, you couldn't see to the bottom of a tank anyway. Be sure that you stagger the securments on the bands & if the tank is very tall place them closer (vertically) together the lower on the tank they go

    L V Dave
  3. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    I like to use styrene to simulate wood too.
    To simulate the wood grain, draw a razor saw sideways across the styrene in the direction you want the grain to run.
  4. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi Biggerhammer,
    I scratchbuilt my water tower using strip wood, this wood is 1/64" thick by 3/32" wide comes in 2' lengths, and cost here in the UK 5p per strip. Comes in two colours
    1 - Light Oak
    2 - Redwood
    I also use this stripwood when I scratchbuild structures. Don't like plastic strips, never seems to look right for me.
    Should be able to show a picture of my water tower later in the week as I am preparing for a photo shoot for a magazine.
  5. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    Shamus, I can only wish that it were so cheap and available here... I paid (for basswood) $.26 per strip, and stained it myself. (I've not spent sterling for years but I think that $.26 is around 18p). I really look forward to your photos. They always give me a lot of encouragement that such is possible even as I feel crushed to see how far I have to go [​IMG]

    One of the earlier suggestions was to put a surface and put Envirotex over that- I'm hoping to avoid this, I want a tank about 1/3 to 1/2 full, with deep 'water' going all the way to the bottom of the tank. I realize that this will be more difficult but I find the idea more rewarding, assuming that I can get it to look good when it's done. Naturally I will keep sending comments, pictures as I have them, and a steady stream of complaints about my inability to follow good advice.
  6. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    The next note in the continuing saga of my water tower-

    The barrel on top is the tough part so far. After a few false starts and a few wasted feet of stripwood, I've settled on the following method:
    I took a used juice can as a form, wrapped two rubberbands around it and put 2.5" strips of stained stripwood around it as though I were making a picket fence. put a thin line of glue on the side of one 'picket' and slide its neighbor over snug aginst it. repeat until you've got a barrel.

    I've got 2/3 of a barrel finished now, and it looks wonderful. I'm really pleased with it. My serious worry now is whether or not it'll survive being removed from the form. I'll let everyone know one way or another in a few days!

    As I have no camera, digital or film, I can't post pictures. If this whole process works, though, I will borrow a camera and make another tower, filming and documenting all the way. I suppose that if it fails I could do that too, and just post it to the 'mistakes made' area [​IMG]
  7. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    Shamus, you're good for my humilty. I really like the clean, neat appearance of your scratchbuilding. Perhaps one of my later towers will look more like this one [​IMG]

    (hoping to someday be in Susan's league)

    [This message has been edited by Biggerhammer (edited 04-19-2001).]
  8. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Okay Biggerhammer, I give in, here is Susan on her way to work, she is standing on the flat car.

    [This message has been edited by shamus (edited 04-19-2001).]
  9. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member


    Wow, you were right- she IS out of my league [​IMG]

    I like the logging town behind her (though it took a minute to notice it [​IMG]). Scratchbuilt?

    And while I'm thinking about it, I have balsa and basswood available to me. What's your preference between the two, and why?

    Thank you again for your advice and encouragment.
  10. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi Biggerhammer,
    Here is the photo I promised of my water tower, sorry about the photo quality, I used my Son's El-cheapo digital to take it. Next time, I'll use my 35mm camera.
  11. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi Biggerhammer,

    Basswood/stripwood is the best to work with for scratchbuilding structures like the camp I built in the photo above.

    Balsawood is a little too soft for structure building but ideal for making tall timber trees as you can rasp the balsa to make a nice looking bark effect. I use 1/2" balsa to make my tall timber trees.
    There is an article I wrote in the academy/archive on making these trees.Here's a photo of some of them. There are over 200 of these 18" tall Pines on my layout.

    [This message has been edited by shamus (edited 04-20-2001).]
  12. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    Further developments-

    In a move virtually guaranteed to wreck this project, I've decided to work without a formal plan and try new things as they occur to me. So far, it has worked reasonably well- I have the tower support, the platform and the barrel completed, an the barrel is secured to the platform with clear caulk. I plan to pour Envirotex tonight. I expect that I'll either be crowing in delight or groaning in despair on this forum tomorrow.

    Shamus, the trees look quite good- I'll keep that in mind for when I get to foresting my layout. No, wait- foresting usually means taking down trees, doesn't it? Unforesting? [​IMG]
  13. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    Well, it's almost finished. The barrel is complete, with clear caulk sealing the joints and holding it to the platform. I've poured the first envirotex, about an inch deep, with two drops of spruce blue to give it a more watery appearance. Really wish I had a camera!I'll get photos of the finished product later (with a friend's camera) assuming that the final pour goes well and the hoops around the water tank work out.
  14. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Look forward to seeing the photo's soon.
  15. Biggerhammer

    Biggerhammer Member

    (*&^! geocities/yahoo won't let me view thos pictures from outside... for now, I will simply create a web page that shows the three photots that I now have.

    So, if you would kindly direct your browser to, you will see the results of my experiment.

    Please comment. If other pictures are desired or if a detail needs description please just ask.

    (I always feel indecisive when I see several 'edited by Biggerhammer' notes on the bottom of my posts... [​IMG] )

    [This message has been edited by Biggerhammer (edited 05-20-2001).]

    [This message has been edited by Biggerhammer (edited 05-20-2001).]
  16. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    kewl.... Looks good.

    Try the "back" "forward" button trick with the geocities pics. see if that make them pop up.


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